Make everything strange

Featuring — Dumb Tech

In the 60s and 70s there was an explosion, in Anglo-American self-help literature, of interest in the war against conceptualization employed by Ch’an and Zen.

Why are children happy? And why are idiots happy? It’s because (the theory goes) they drink in sensations unmediated by language.

Two people, A(dult) and B(aby), look at this sensuous blob, which adults like A call a table. Interpretive efficiency and snappy decisions work together to help survival. Whatever can be outsourced to automation ought to be outsourced. So most people (and nearly all adults) do not access the sensuous blob before them, but automatically project the accepted concept and then react to it as if it had the ontological status of a real particular.

It seems to me that withholding concept application to sensation might be the analog practice of Vipassana:

  • Vipassana: When a feeling (body sensation) comes, be aware but do not react in any way (that is, do not move; that is, do not be beholden to craving which makes reactivity possible).
  • Conceptless perception: When a field of outer sense arrives, do not bind objects under concepts, except minimally, perhaps, as mere bodies. Let every body be unique.

Doing this will make you dumb (!) and less dextrous and less likely to survive. But you will also, for a moment, have access to the Excitement Consciousness enjoyed by children and idiots.

Make everything strange

Look around. Stare at objects. Refrain from verbalizing and conceptualizing. Let everything be unfamiliar.